Learn more about the 2020-2021 New Jersey County Teachers of the Year:

What is your name & job title?

My name is Jamie Warner and I am an 8th grade Social Studies teacher.

Do you love your job? What do you love about it?

I love my job. I always wanted to be a professional student – I love learning new things and teaching allows me to continue learning each and every day. My students teach me so much – how they respond to questions, sharing a different perspective, projects that they create based on their learning in my classroom. I think the classroom is the richest place to learn for both students and teachers. These last few months of distance learning made me realize just how important the 100 little moments of each day are – the moments where you really get to know the students and how they learn best.

Tell me about your students.

My students are amazing! They come to class ready to learn and are always prepared with an open mind. They ask the best questions, are eager to problem solve, willing to collaborate and they will always give me thoughtful feedback when I seek it. Middle school students are generally the most honest bunch when it comes to criticism so I respect their feedback and always reflect on what they share.

Tell me about a project related to your work that you’re really proud of.

I’ve done a lot with Human Rights Education. Several years ago, I created a personalized learning project where students investigated a Human Rights issue of their choosing. I gave students an outline of my expectations – I wanted them to choose a Human Right, explore the issue globally, research the history of the issue, tell me what solutions have been proposed and then evaluate the solutions. Students then created a presentation of their choosing to share their findings in expert panels. Then, we paired up with other students in town and across the world to discuss the issues and raise awareness. My students took on the role of experts and it was such a rewarding experience. We have since developed it into an entire unit for all 8th graders to complete, district-wide. The unit continues to evolve, as does the project. It’s awesome seeing students share their passions!

What is your connection to your union/local association?

I’m an active member of my union and so appreciative of all they do and offer.

Why did you choose a career in public education?

I’ve always felt most comfortable in a classroom. I enjoy the process of learning and the challenge it provides. I thought being a teacher would be a terrific way to make a difference, like the excellent teachers I had growing up made a difference in my life.

Have you had a teacher or educational support professional who inspired you?

Absolutely! I’ve been so fortunate to have terrific teachers that inspired me. Ms. Lauren Palermo, my high school English teacher was a true gift – she helped develop my love of literature and helped me find my confidence in my ability to write. And Mr. Ken Farrell, my high school Social Studies teacher made me fall in love with history and the endless discussions it prompts. My current colleague, Andy NiCastro, is such a wonderful math teacher and the consummate mentor to all teachers, novice and veteran alike. He has been teaching in my district for over 45 years and I believe he is every bit as passionate about his craft as he must have been when he first started. He is a treasure!

If you had to describe public education in one word, what would that be?

Vital. I think education is the key to understanding your community, your state, your country and the world.

Public education is facing many challenges. One is the impact that COVID-19 has had on how we teach and how students learn. What have you learned about how you, your colleagues, and your students adapted to remote instruction?

I learned that teachers and students are incredibly resilient and tenacious. When you have to find a way, teachers will always work together to support one another to create the path for their students’ success. I also learned that screen fatigue is real and that you have to find a balance, especially in such an unprecedented time as we are experiencing right now.

As a result of George Floyd’s murder, along with other tragedies targeting Black people, more and more people are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. How has this affected you as an educator, and as a person, and how do you see yourself addressing systemic racism through your work as a teacher?

We were all witnesses to George Floyd’s murder. It was so widespread and emotionally jarring. I immediately thought of my students and what they must be thinking during these incredibly uncertain times. The protests that have followed have helped to create this movement for change and I am hopeful about the end results. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” I want my students to understand the impact that they can have as leaders within our communities.

Personally, I have become more reflective and conscious about what I teach and how I teach it. Just as many educators and individuals are doing, I am really thinking about implicit bias, culturally responsive work and its importance.

I think teachers have an important responsibility to ensure that all students are reflected within our curriculum and resources so that our history is truly a shared and inclusive history.

Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you would like to share?

I think it is so important to be genuine and authentic with your students to help build an environment and a classroom culture of true respect and rapport. My students know that I am a complete history geek – they tell me it comes across in how I review things and how excited I get to talk about different aspects of Medieval history. I also share my passions outside of history with them because I think it’s important to be well-rounded. They know I’m a Mets fan, an avid baseball photographer, a fan and frequent visitor of National Parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park and a voracious reader. My students will often recommend books to me (history-related or not) and they get a kick out of watching me journal their suggestions into my reading calendar/planner. Teaching is the most fulfilling job, in my opinion.

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